To all the Offices of Data Analytics out there: Join the National Analytics Forum.
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To all the Offices of Data Analytics out there: Join the National Analytics Forum.

In late November we attended the packed out National Analytics Forum in Essex, hosted by the University of Essex and the ECDA (the Essex Centre for Data Analytics).

It’s been a while since our last blog on Office of Data Analytics (ODA), so we thought we’d break the silence by sharing insights on both the purpose of the National Analytics Forum, and how the Forum may be of interest to organisations involved in the field of data science in the public sector.

What is the National Analytics Forum (NAF)?

Initiated by the Avon and Somerset ODA as part of their Home Office Transformation Fund, the NAF is a peer-to-peer network and forum for all Offices of Data Analytics (ODAs) and similar initiatives working in the field of data science in the UK.

The NAF aims to encourage multi-organisational collaboration and champion the use of data science techniques in traditional and emerging fields of the public sector.

The network has been growing in the last few months, and now counts more than 40 members from a variety of organisations from across local public services and national government. Member organisations are both established ODAs and their partners from local government, such as police and fire rescue, as well as newer ODAs looking to take their first steps in this work.

What is the NAF for?

The agenda for each NAF is set by what is important to the community. The November one was dedicated to data capabilities, and gave the opportunity to different ODAs to share their experience in shifting organisational culture, educating and supporting leadership for the different ways they could engage with data differently.

It was clear that for everyone in the room, what really helped make such a shift was bringing people on this journey, to help create an understanding of the value of data-driven approaches.

We don’t want people to blindly follow data - in all our projects people are the ones who are ultimately making decisions, but having data literacy.

Avon and Somerset Police

For many, this journey is only possible when analyst teams work in new ways - expanding their expertise, and creating an environment for different ways of working for the whole organisation.

In Essex, analysts who were mainly performing business performance work, are now empowered to provide intelligence and actionable insight, and are being trained to gain even more advanced analytics and data science skills.

Nicola Mallet, ECDA

As we hear time and time again, for innovative ideas to stick, you cannot neglect the ways of working, operating, and establishing the change with people.

The National Analytics Forum helps people really understand that we need to join forces, and build on collective knowledge. And in an emergent field like the one of ODAs, the National Analytics Forum is essential for considering how things are created and implemented - drawing on the collective knowledge and experiences, and establishing new ways of working to get the most from the change.

Why get involved with the National Analytics Forum?

  1. You can’t do it alone

    Many organisations are now looking at the ODA model with interest. But often, they find an obstacle in getting enough support within their organisation. Through the NAF, aspiring ODAs are able to talk to others who have already walked their journey. Not only does this help new ODAs learn faster, and avoid common pitfalls, it helps establish credibility for their work when making the case to leadership in their own organisation.

  2. Let’s not reinvent the wheel

    In many authorities ODAs have used data analytics to tackle a number of challenges (for some examples, see the pilots section of the State of ODA report). The NAF is the perfect platform for those who are willing to showcase their experience, share good practice, and identify matters of research on data science that might be in common with other members.

  3. There’s power in the crowd

    Many organisations are now willing to start conversations and involve the public in a meaningful dialogue, and recognise that without public engagement there’s no real point in trying to do anything. Together, NAF members can not only identify opportunities to develop their capabilities further, possible funding streams across government departments. They could also work together on important matters such as the development of standards, resource materials, regulations, PR and ethics for using or applying Data Science techniques.

    The NAF could therefore become the avenue to act as a single voice with which to lobby government about issues that affect all public deployment areas of data science.

How can you get involved?

If you think you might be interested in attending the NAF or joining our Slack Channel, just send an email to Camilla Bertoncin. To know more about our work on ODAs, visit Nesta's ODA programme page.

We look forward to seeing you to the next meeting!


Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Camilla Bertoncin

Project Manager and Researcher

Camilla is a Project Manager and Researcher working in the Explorations team on the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design.

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